Monday, February 28, 2005

Missing the Point: Delicious Roadkill

(submitted by Lori)

Animal activists are upset with Kraft for a new "gummi" product that features flattened snakes, chickens and squirrels, complete with tire marks on them called "Trolli Road Kill Gummi Candy" because they suggest that it will tell kids that it's ok to kill animals with their cars when they're old enough to drive.

Or equally bad, reinforce in kids from Arkansas that it's ok to eat what they find on the side of the road.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Say What?

“Tobacco is harmful to health and as a responsible tobacco group, we have long recognized the right of national governments to regulate it,” said Emily Brand, a spokeswoman for British American Tobacco Ltd.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Power of the Media

Autism... heard of it? If you've been anywhere the NBC world lately, you couldn't have missed it... NBC Nightly News, Today,, even Scrubs... If you were suspicious like me, you might have thought... is it National Autism Awareness Month? Or did someone high up at GE decide it was time to push Autism to the forefront?

Well, it seems that the latter might have been partially the case. Either as a result of, or coincidentally, Newsweek has also featured it (Newsweek is, by the way, an partner) and on Monday the CDC started a push for more info on it. The New York Times has taken notice as well.

The CEO of NBC Universal (a vice chair at GE), Bob Wright has a grandson who's autistic.

To me, it seems like more than coincidence. In this case, it's cool because it seems like an entire media empire can be mobilized to bring attention to something, at the very least, bringing greater awareness, or even more, to raise funds.

But what if it were used that effectively to, say, campaign for a particular candidate, or push a particular religion?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Clueless: Parents Television Council

So the Parents Television Council thinks that television is trashy and wants it cleaned up. To prove their point, they've assembled a page called "worst of the week clips gallery" where you can see all the things you might have missed that they deemed to be things that should have never appeared on television. (But apparently it's ok on the internet?)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Coffee Break

This is as much for me as it is for anyone else reading this... this is from my friend Monika and I have no better place to save this, in case I want to find it again in the future...

Here's a recommendation: Off the 101, in Summerland just before you get to Santa Barbara, is the BEST little coffee house EVER. It's called The French Bulldog, and they've set up shop in a converted old house, with a big stone fireplace inside and a wide front porch with comfy wicker furniture. They do AMAZING coffee - as well as soups and salads and sandwiches and pastries, and the most delectable chocolate truffles you ever ate.

Soaked to the Core

We've now had 31 inches since July 1, much of that in the past few days and weeks. We only need about 7 more inches to break the record. Of course, I don't know how old those statistics are.

What I do know is that today was a miserable day to install a hot water heater. But, that's what I did. It sat in a box for a year and a half and it was finally installed today. My friend (and boss) Fady helped me do it, but it took about 10 hours, at least five (?? I lost count) trips to Home Depot and despite being in a covered area outside, I got very soaked and very cold. The water is now back on in the house and by morning we may have warm water, but for now, it's only this blanket and laptop keeping me warm.

I wonder what it would be like to live somewhere where it rains all the time. I remember a lot of rain in Seattle, but I don't remember it ever being like this. Apparently, statistically, it usually isn't. I guess I would own some sort of coat that repelled water, to start. I do have to say that the rain sounds really neat outside right now, now that I'm happily back indoors and very quickly getting really exhausted. It is nice to have the hot water heater (I still need to fashion a new exhaust pipe) done, it seems to much more open in the garage without the large box taking up space. Despite the project taking way too long, I think he knew what he was doing and I don't think it will explode or leak all over and make our house moldy, so that's good.

Well, I feel like any second now I'm going to keel over and drop the laptop and I do have to work tomorrow, so I should go. Goodnight, all.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Criminal Mind: Car Theft Ring

Let's take your average mall or strip mall. There are plenty of people coming and going every few hours. But, some cars stay in the parking lot much longer than others. Not only that, but those same cars are pretty much every day. Why? They belong to the employees who work there.

As with any good crime, it's all about opportunity, predictability, reward and level of risk involved. (Or means, motive and opportunity, but that's more about spontaneous crime.)

Car theft, or burglary from cars is pretty low risk in this case.

First, you have plenty of time for planning. My method of operation would be to cruise the aisles, as if I was looking for a parking place. But.. what I would actually be doing was videotaping every car in the parking lot. I would do this on a number of occasions, especially when it's busy, but also in the off-times. From this, we can establish patterns... which cars belong to employees, what shifts they typically work and in many cases, if they have a security system, just based whether or not there's a visible blinking light... often in the dash, or near the door locks in the case of VW's (and Audi's?). Of course, also be on the lookout for cameras or security guards. Cameras may dictate what kind of crime you can successfully get away with. Security Guards are easier to deal with.

And let's face it... people who work at the mall often have crummy cars with really nice stereos, lots of CD's and other expensive stuff in their car.

So now that you know which cars are employee cars and which cars are the best targets... based on where they park, if they work until closing, stuff like that.

Now, you have a couple of options. The best bet is to park next to one of the cars you intend to steal or break into. Then, if there are human security guards, you can divert their attention by setting off your own car alarm a few times. When they come to check it out, they realize it's just an overly sensitive car alarm and after that are less likely to pay as much attention to the general vicinity of any future alarms, even if they're a different car. (Though hopefully you'd go after cars without alarms because there will be plenty of marks that aren't armed.) Of course, the other diversionary tactic, if you have a large crew, is to stage something on the other side of the parking lot to draw all the attention away from you.

Parked next to them, you can pretend to struggle getting packages into your car to hide the fact that you're actually breaking into the car. Or, you can put fake AAA magnetic panels on your car and no one will even pay any attention to you.

Risk... minimal. Opportunty... great. Reward... great. Predicability/patterns... check.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Missing the Point: Hitler's Playground

Some Jewish groups are upset at the opening of a new luxury hotel and resort at a location where Hitler had a resort which was sometimes also the location from which the German government was run during Hitler's reign.

I'm sorry, isn't this the sort of thing they should actually be celebrating? All too often we commemorate a tragic location with a "tribute" to victims which just ends up serving as a reminder to everyone of what evil someone was capable of.

Instead, Bavarian officials have allowed redevelopment to occur, excising the remnants of Hitler's stay. Even the US Government used the area as a resort after World War II before turning it back over to Germany. The new luxury resort re-establishes the area as a vacation spot as it was before Hitler's time. Hitler becomes an unfortunate blip on the radar. While his actions (and not just his) were indeed evil, they don't inadvertently become celebrated by keeping the land off-limits. Now, if the resort had a monument to Hitler, or used the location's connection to its past as an advertising feature, trying to target Neo-Nazis as potential guests, that would be one thing. But it sounds more to me like the resort is saying "It's a new day and we choose to embrace the future."

I mean, you have to. If we build a monument to every tragedy, locking up the real estate forever with a plaque or a statue, we ultimately don't honor those killed so much as give a permanent place for the evil people to visit -- who might be inspired to one day do something worthy of their own.

That's what bothers me about when some guy walked into a McDonalds years ago and shot a bunch of people. They tore down the McDonalds, built a new one nearby and turned the old location into a park or something. Sure, it may have been determined that maybe people might not want to continue frequenting the old one, even if fixed up, but in time, they would have. A nice plaque at the restaurant and money to the families might have been better spent. Or the World Trade Center. Instead of saying "Yeah, some idiots did something bad here, but we're moving on because they have not deterred us," I feel like we're saying "Hey world, next time you're in New York, stop by and see where a guy living in a cave in Afghanistan was able to convince a bunch of crazy followers to hijack planes and kill our people." While we visit out of morbid curiosity or actual reverence, or for the next 60-80 years to pay tribute to relatives who we actually knew, how many Islamic fundamentalists dream of someday going to New York to see a triumph permanently enshrined?

I mean, what's next, a giant concrete statue of an SUV at the Glendale Transit Center, surrounded by 11 glass replicas of train seats in a semi-circle facing away from it with a little garden and a fountain? It would make the surviving family feel better for a little while, but just reminder all train passengers that they could die on their way to work, and prevent family from moving from the area because of the guilt that they wouldn't be able to regularly visit the memorial.

If I'm ever killed by someone evil, I don't want to be part of some permanent "tribute." Plant one or more trees, spread my ashes around the trees to help them grow, and send some money to my college to get the stream running again into the pond. They can put my name on a plaque there if they want, a symbol of something good, not a reminder of something bad.

Because in time, my family would move on... not because they didn't care, but because you have to. Don't forget history, but don't create permanent reminders that can be so broadly interpreted as a success for champions of evil, either.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I love television

The link above is to an interesting article on MSNBC about those vanity tags at the end of shows.

But what's really odd is what's on our TV right now... "Puppy Bowl" is a three hour program on link all day long on Animal Planet. They've built a small stage to look like a football stadium, complete with an astroturf floor painted with lines and a giant "puppy bowl" logo in the center and goal-posts at each end. A really bizarre fake background of people complete with little flashing lights arounds the outside. One wall instead of having people has a plexiglass wall behind which a camera man moves back and forth for a field-level shot. They have overhead shots, wide shots, a camera under the water bowls at each goal post and every so often a "ball shot" which is a rather large remote-control car chassis on which a wireless camera sits, which someone has cut open a football and stretched around. It seems like the ball cam could have been done much better, but hey.

Every so often they inroduce a new set of dogs, complete with the FOX-style animated graphics and pictures of the dogs with their stats. Worse yet, every so often there's an instant reply. But the worst is when a puppy makes a mess, some guy comes out on his knees in a ref's outfit to clean up the mess and declare a foul. Poor guy. Sometimes the puppies have fun and sometimes they fight with each other.

There's an inane and unoffensive soundtrack in the back and, except for the ref, no talking. Graphics every so often encourage people to visit their local shelter to adopt a dog. It's occasionally interrupted by commercials.

West of Old

On two occasions this week I've found myself on the 101 after dark. Once, returning from a trip to Santa Barbara with the family, the second driving a new friend back to their home in Reseda.

I've come to realize that I've missed a few things and not even realized it. One, I've missed driving at freeway speeds. My morning commute in the carpool lane maybe gets up to 35. My evening commute, not that fast. Two, I miss driving my car. Most of the time I drive my wife's small SUV; I don't get much time behind the wheel of my Intrepid. Three, I miss driving after dark. Married with a kid kind of limits how often one can just get on the road at 11, 12, 1 or 2 am. It just doesn't happen, it's too hard to find a solid reason. And finally, as much to my surprise as anyone's, I miss the valley.

As I've moved further and further east, I've left the big city for small towns. Small towns like Glendale, Pasadena, Monrovia and all the drive-throughs like Arcadia, Duarte and the rest. The problem with these small towns is that they're trying hard to stay small towns. This self-aware-ness is frigging annoying. To make matters worse, we ended up living in the county, not even in a city at all.

I've tried to think about what would make me miss the valley. That's a little bit tougher, it's not something I can really put my finger on, but I can try. I think there's a sensibility that's different. Instead of a self-contained organism, it's part of a larger whole. It's a little more gritty, a little less controlled. I think the valley is more REAL.

And another thing... in my old hood, the hills belonged to everyone. Around here, it's all flat lands. Where there are hills, they're just residential neighborhoods where people wealthier than us live. Sure, we couldn't afford any of the houses on the hills of the valley, either, but roads criss-cross the hills taking you to other fun places like Hollywood, Beverly Hills and so on.

Around here, to go anywhere, we jump up to the 210 and go east or west. From my old haunts in Sherman Oaks, depending on where I was going, I could take the 101 or the 405, or catch a flight over the hill via Mulholland or other cross-valley paths.

In the mid-90's, the valley was home. Say what you will, it was a nice home.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005



You're all so lucky
That you get to sing
And honor me this way!
So count it a blessing
That you were among
The lot that were able to say…


I blush, I shudder
I act surprised
That this is all for me…
But I must confess
I deserve nothing less
So who needs humility?!


When I go walking
Down the street
The people say, Ah, ha!
No need for delaying
I know that they're saying
Whose birthday it this - C'est moi!


The goal of this song
Is how many me's
And I's I can squeeze in.
We're now up to twenty
But still room for plenty
So we'll start all over again…